In some respects, it’s almost quaint to think of smartphones as portable telephones.
After all, voice calls are an increasingly marginal function of today’s multipurpose handsets.
We’re more likely to keep in touch by sending a Facebook or WhatsApp message, since social media has become the bedrock of social communications.
By the time apps and search engines are taken into consideration, ringing someone up feels like a distinctly 20th century method of communication.
Yet talk time remains an important factor when selecting a new SIM-only deal.
It’s usually listed before the volume of texts a network operator provides – and before the amount of data, which tends to be a more contentious topic.
But how many monthly minutes do you really need nowadays?
The monthly minutes mystery
Few people could accurately estimate how many minutes they spend on their phones in a typical month.
In today’s paperless age, phone bills tend to be published online and then ignored.
Few of us bother to check what percentage of our allowance was used last month, providing our monthly minutes package wasn’t completely exhausted.
Even so, call histories are stored by every network operator, and it’s easy to view them.
For instance, Tesco Mobile customers should log onto the provider’s website, go to My Account, and then choose ‘View my usage details since my last bill’ from the ‘Tariff and bundles’ section.
Most networks identify how many minutes were spent on the phone since the last bill was published, providing a mid-month benchmark of normal talk time requirements.
It’s still good to talk
Of course, we’re not all happy to communicate entirely by text and email these days.
Some people need to make calls for specific purposes, like scheduling appointments.
Elderly relatives are often reluctant to embrace new communication methods.
And even checking voicemail messages eats into monthly talk time allowances.
Plus, as landlines fall from grace, people are using their smartphones for every incoming and outgoing call. Gone are the days when a mobile number in a small ad seemed suspicious.
Ways to minimise monthly minutes
These simple steps ought to reduce your talk time requirements:
- Try to answer every incoming call. Diverting them to voicemail means (a) using a small amount of talk time listening to the message, and (b) phoning someone back on your bill
- Keep it brief. It’s amazing how time slips away while making small talk. Cut out the waffle and get straight to the point
- Investigate VoIP platforms. Voice Over IP is the term used for calls made over the internet, and platforms like Skype are often completely free of charge
- Use chatbots. These automated programs are found on websites, handling routine tasks such as appointment scheduling that would otherwise involve a phone call
- Go back to texting. Don’t ring someone about a non-urgent matter – send a text instead. You’ll probably have hundreds of unused texts left over at the end of each month.